Papandreou seeks to press Greece's claim to larger share of Aegean waters. Greek-Turkish summit: a first step in helping break the ice
The Greek-Turkish summit beginning tomorrow has the potential to rechart relations between the two countries. And Greece is entering the talks with cautious optimism. In recent interviews, Greek Prime Minister Andreas Papandreou has said the talks he and his Turkish counterpart are to have in Davos, Switzerland, could lead to other meetings and ``that warmer relations are foreseen.''
Such a series of discussions would go a long way in breaking the ice that has built up between the two Aegean neighbors over the last 65 years. Territorial and mineral rights in the Aegean Sea have divided them. These issues have been particularly aggravated since the 1974 de facto division of Cyprus into Greek-controlled and Turkish-controlled sectors. Last March a dispute over oil-drilling rights in the Aegean brought the two NATO partners close to war.
But while Mr. Papandreou says ``it would be positive to have a change in tone between the two countries,'' he has also made it clear that ``our principles remain unchanged.'' At Davos, he says, he will raise the issue of the continental shelf. In an interview last weekend, he said his primary desire at the meeting is to persuade Prime Minister Turgut Ozal that the issue be put before the World Court.
A clear demarcation of each country's continental shelf would allow them to exploit their rightful mineral deposits and to avoid future confrontations. Greece argues that each island has its own continental shelf and that this view is borne out by the 1982 Law of the Sea Convention. If the World Court were to agree with this argument, it would greatly expand the waters that are now under Greek control.
Turkey, which did not sign the Law of the Sea agreement, counters that with the Aegean's ``unique character' - 2,500 predominantly Greek islands, many of which are close to the Turkish coast - the law cannot be strictly applied to disputes there. Ankara argues, for instance, that an extension of territorial waters to 12 miles from the present six, as allowed for by the law, would make the Aegean a Greek ``lake'' by cutting of international shipping lanes between the Black Sea and the Mediterranean.
Another issue of concern to both sides is that of minorities. The 1923 Treaty of Lausanne, which ended hostilities between the two countries, provided for an exchange of populations, moving thousands of Muslim Greeks to Turkey, and moving Greek Orthodox people of Asia Minor to Greece. Not everyone chose to go. Today, some 130,000 Muslims live in the northern Greek territory of Thrace and 6,000 Greeks still live in Istanbul.
Both sides cite numerous instances of discrimination against their respective groups.
Greeks, in particular, mention the anti-Greek riots in Istanbul in 1955, in which houses, shops, and churches were burned and many Greeks fled the city. Greece would like to see the abolition of a 1964 Turkish law that eliminated the property rights of Greek inhabitants of the country. Many Greeks are also concerned that the patriarch of the Orthodox Church, who still resides in Istanbul, is subject to political pressure from the Ankara government.
Turkey complains that the Muslims of Greek Thrace, mostly ethnic Turks, are not recognized as a minority, have been denied property rights of their own, and have been barred from forming local Turkish civil associations.
Sources in Athens say that Papandreou is ready to address the minority problem.